About-the world this week, 12 March to 18 March 2023: Atmospheric river storms, Bank collapses in America, and the Oscar Awards.


An ‘atmospheric river storm’ is sweeping through the West Coast of the United States (US) causing heavy flooding and hurricane-like winds in the Central and Northern California areas. And this is the 11th atmospheric river storm to hit California this winter. Due to the inundation and water entering houses and businesses, thousands were left without power.

We’ve heard of Hurricanes, Cyclones, and the kind; what then is an Atmospheric River?

An Atmospheric River (AR) is a narrow corridor or filament of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere formed by it picking up moisture and warm moist air in the tropics. It consists of narrow bands of enhanced water vapour transport, generally along the boundaries between large areas of divergent surface air-flow. AR’s are typically several thousand kilometres (km) long and only a few hundred km wide, and a single stream can carry a greater flux of water than Earth’s largest river, the Amazon River! There are typically about three to five of these narrow rivers present within a hemisphere at any given time. These have been increasing in intensity, slightly over the past century.

Since AR storms carry water vapour through the sky, when the storm reaches cooler regions and makes landfall, the weather causes the water to cool and turns it into rain and sometimes even snow. Looks like AR storms are going to be a recurring event in times to come. Gosh, mighty rivers hovering in the atmosphere above us!

Talking of other storms in America – this time about a financial storm in Silicon Valley -The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), headquartered in Santa Clara, California collapsed. It was quickly matched, in step, by another Bank, Signature Bank.

SVB was founded in 1983 and was the 16th largest US bank before its collapse. It has operations in Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK).

The era of easy monetary policy had enabled technology companies to raise and deploy funds, and SVB benefitted from this boom, lending to early-stage technology and biotech startups and managing funds for Venture Capitalists. SVB was a preferred bank for the tech sector because they supported startup companies that not all banks would accept due to higher risks.

But the Russia-Ukraine war fuelled global inflation levels that led to Central Banks tightening monetary policy aggressively.

The collapse happened due to multiple reasons, including a lack of diversification and a classic ‘bank run’, where many customers withdrew their deposits simultaneously due to fears of the bank’s solvency.

SVB had invested most of its deposits in US Government Treasury Bonds when the interest rates were extremely low. But when the US Federal Reserve went on an aggressive plan to raise interest rates to combat inflation, SVB found its return on investment shrinking. With rise in interest rates, bond prices fell, eroding the value of SVB’s bond portfolio. And with customers beginning to withdraw deposits, they had to resort to selling the Bonds at a loss, and also other assets to meet withdrawal requests, ending up with not having enough cash to pay depositors. Hence, California regulators shut the bank down on 8th March.

SVB was large but had a unique existence by servicing nearly exclusively the technology world and Venture Capitalist-backed companies. It did a lot of work with the particular part of the economy that was hit hard in the past year. Other banks are far more diversified across multiple industries, customer bases, and geographies.

Deposits of up to USD 250,000 are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In SVB’s case, about USD 151 billion of the bank’s total deposits of USD 175.4 billion were uninsured deposits.

The US Government has entered the scene to guarantee customer deposits, but SVB’s downfall continues to reverberate across global financial markets. The government has also shut down Signature Bank, a regional bank that was teetering on the brink of collapse, and guaranteed its deposits.

Meanwhile, HSBC stepped in this week to buy SVB UK securing the deposits of thousands of British tech companies

That’s a Silicon Valley Atmospheric Financial Storm, for sure!

In other news, early this week a Russian military jet, Su-27, intercepted a US drone, MQ-9 Reaper, and downed it over the Black Sea, kicking of a direct clash and raising tensions between the world’s leading nuclear powers. The United States said that the incident shows Russia’s irresponsible behaviour in international airspace, while Russia accuses the US of trying to escalate tensions near Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it forcibly annexed in 2014.

And on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces continued to withstand Russian assaults on the now-ruined city of Bakhmut. A constant rumble of artillery, on all sides, is the order of the day.

This week, The United Kingdom banned the Social Media App TikTok from official government devices on Thursday, adding to similar restrictions imposed by allies in Canada, the European Union and the US. TikTok is not widely used by UK officials, but the measure reflects concerns about TikTok’s links to China through its parent company, ByteDance, and the possibility that the Chinese government could pressurise the companies to hand over users’ personal data.

This week, the US finally decided: after over two years, the US confirmed Eric Garcetti, 52, a President Joe Biden loyalist, as its Ambassador to India. The nomination of Garcetti was pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was chosen for the diplomatic post. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favour of Garcetti’s nomination. And this week the Senate voted to confirm.

Please Yourself

This week, the 2023 Oscars Academy Awards Ceremony – the 95th – honouring the best in film was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday night, hosted by US Chat Show host Jimmy Kimmel.

He began with a monologue ruminating the past 12 months in the film industry. “They say Hollywood is running out of ideas. I mean, poor Steven Spielberg had to make a movie about Steven Spielberg,” he joked, referring to the director’s autobiographical best picture nominee, ‘The Fabelmans’. And then Jimmy Kimmel found his way through the air to James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, which he described as, “another opportunity for James Cameron to do what he loves doing more than anything else – drowning (Titanic fame)Kate Winslet”.

That set the stage for the glitz and glamour of the night, beginning with the entry of the stars walking on the Red Carpet and the beaming winners leaving with the gold Oscar statuettes. This year the Academy stood like a rock, became a ‘will smith’ ensuring there were no fist-fights or cheeky slaps.

First, the Red Carpet.

Hollywood Actress Cate Blanchett was easily one of the best dressed in an elegant blue velvet Louis Vuitton outfit, featuring a ribbon made by refugees as part of an initiative from the United Nations refugee agency: she glided on the Red Carpet while others walked! Michelle Yeoh arrived in a white fringe Dior ‘wearable cloud’ like gown accented with diamonds. Lady Gaga, who performed her song, ‘Hold My Hand’, from the movie, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, wore a black Versace dress with a sheer corset bodice, which extended tantalisingly low, hanging by the skin of the hip. Maybe someone had to hold the bottom half of the dress and lift it up? Rihanna also sang at the ceremony, performing, ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in her Alaia outfit, which had leather straps and train, and lots of sheer mesh, ‘shark slits’ at her thighs, proudly showing off her magnificent baby bump.

Everyone was wondering what a ‘stranger at the Oscars’ – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai- was doing in this part of the World when she arrived in a shimmering silver Ralph Lauren gown with ruched waist and inbuilt head-scarf. Appears she was at the ceremony as executive producer of ‘Stranger at the Gate’, which was nominated for best Short Documentary.

Indian Actress Deepika Padukone was a cynosure of many eyes wearing a stunning off-the-shoulder black bespoke Louis Vuitton gown. It had a plunging neckline along with full-length sleeves, a fitted corseted bodice, a flared pleated skirt, and trendy black opera gloves. Deepika also sported a brand new tattoo on her slender neck, which read, ’82’E’ – the name of her newly-launched skincare brand. She was more than nattily dressed-up to announce the winner of Best Original Song, from India – ’Naatu Naatu’.

Over to a short reel of Oscar history.

Only three movies have won a record number of 11 Oscars: ‘Ben-Hur’ in 1959, ‘Titanic’ in 1997, and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ in 2003. Then comes ‘West Side Story’ (1961), which won 10 Oscars, quickly followed by ‘Gigi’, ‘The Last Emperor’, and ‘The English Patient’ with 9 Oscars each. Movies which won 8 Oscars are, Slumdog Millionaire, Gandhi, Amadeus, Gone With the Wind, From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, My Fair Lady, and Cabaret.

Ben-Hur is one of the greatest films in history and was the first movie to win 11 Oscars – a record untouched for decades until Titanic equalled it!

This year, the movie ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ was just about everywhere with seven awards: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screen Play, and Editing. It’s lead Actress, Michelle Yeoh, became the first Asian woman to win the best actress Oscar.

Yeoh plays a Chinese-American laundrette owner who is mired in a tax audit, stuck in a crumbling marriage, and struggling to connect with her daughter Joy. But when she discovers different versions of herself in the multiverse, she must tap into their skills in order to save the world. The dazzling multiverse adventure dominated the awards this year.

Brendan Fraser capped his extraordinary comeback after years away from the Hollywood spotlight by winning best actor for his performance in ‘The Whale’ as an overweight professor- who almost eats to death – trying to repair his relationship with his teenage daughter. Fraser transformed his appearance for the film, which also won best make-up and hairstyling. It took the team about six hours of makeup and preparation to get Fraser ready with all the ‘extra weight prosthetics’.

American Actress Jamie Lee Curtis won the first Oscar of her 45-year acting career as best supporting actress-one of the tightest categories of the Awards this year-in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

All Quiet On the Western Front’, Netflix’s German-language World War finished the night in second place with four awards – best international feature film, original score, production design, and cinematography.

Wakanda Forever’s, Ruth Carter, repeated the best costume design victory she scored with the original Black Panther.

The award for best documentary feature went to ‘Navalny’, about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the events related to his 2020 poisoning. Director Daniel Roher dedicated the award to Navalny, who is serving prison term in Russia. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, added: “Alexei, I am dreaming of the day you will be free and our country will be free, stay strong my love.”

Other notable wins are, Best Sound for Top Gun Maverick, and Best Visual Effects for Avatar: The Way of Water.

In a way, India danced and whispered its way into the Academy Awards.

The Oscar for the Best Original Song went to ‘Naatu Naatu’ in the Indian film RRR. The music for the song was composed by M M Keeravani, lyrics by Chandrabose, and sung by Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj. This was on expected lines with ‘Naatu Naatu’ wining almost all awards in the run-up to the Oscars. This is the first song from an Indian Film to win Best Original Song honours at the Academy Awards.

The whole of India broke into celebrations: Director Rajamouli and the star cast of Ram Charan, N T Rama Rao Jr and team have brought home the Oscar.

‘Naatu’ means native, local, countryside. Chandrabose wrote the song from childhood memories – 90% in half a day and the remaining in over 1.5 years. The sound was to the beat of folk songs in Indian Villages and Keeravani used Indian skin drums for the instrumentation in addition to mandolins for the melody. The song was shot in Ukraine at the Mariinskyi Palace, the official residence of the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, a few months before the start of the Russia-Ukraine War.

However, the biggest surprise was reserved for the Tamil Language Short Documentary Film ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ directed by documentary filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves in her directional debut, and released on Netflix in 2022. It was produced by Sikhya Entertainment founded by Guneet Monga, who also produced/co-produced films such as ‘The Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘The Lunch Box’, and the Tamil ‘Soorarai Pottru’.

The Elephant Whisperers won the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Film, the first ever by an Indian film in this category. It shouted out other nominees, Haul Out, How Do You Measure A Year, The Martha Mitchell Effect, and Stranger At The Gate.

The Elephant Whisperers tells the heart-warming story of an indigenous couple, Bomman and Bellie in the Mudumalai National Park, in the Nilgiri Mountains, Tamil Nadu, India, who lovingly bring up an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu and in the process develop a strong bond with it as it grows up, forging a rare kind of friendship – an elephant-knit family.

The film is also a visual treat showcasing the marvellous diversity of nature and wildlife beauty in the Reserve, and the people and animals who co-exist in harmony with nature and the environment. It unobtrusively allows viewers understand both the elephant and the human carers with minimal, outside interpretation. And portrays the dignity of both the magnificent elephants and the indigenous people who have lived with and cared for them for centuries. The movie also provides a window into Indian culture and country’s long history of environmental preservation.

More elephantine stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Love yourself, the animals around, and nature. And listen to the whispers of World Inthavaaram.



About-the world this week, 5 March to 11 March 2023: A wave of missiles in an endless war; a shooting in Germany; Jehovah’s Witnesses; eggs from mice cells; and remembering a forgotten Indian Actress – a Dark Angel- in Oscar times.


Ukraine continues to suffer tremendously in the un-warranted war brought on by Russia, and this week Russia launched one of its biggest aerial assaults with a huge wave of missiles, about 84, targeted at Ukrainian infrastructure. This included six hypersonic Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Ukraine’s air defences. However, about 34 other missiles were intercepted. Ukraine admitted that they have no capabilities to counter these weapons. The use of such a wide and unpredictable array of weaponry seemingly marks a shift in Russia’s strategy.

There was a dead-serious, scary moment when Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant lost all off-site power due to Russian missile attacks-the first time the plant had lost all power since 23 November 2022. This is a reminder of the perilous situation facing the nuclear site and the surrounding area.

“If we allow this to continue time after time, then one day our luck will run out,” said the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The strategic Ukraine city of Bakhmut appears to be getting closer to being under complete Russian control: the private mercenary group Wagner, working for Russia, being in the forefront, in a fierce battle – perhaps the most violent fight of the war. The end of the war is still not in the cross-hairs!

Meanwhile, in China, President Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third five-year term as China’s President putting him on track to remain in power for probably the rest of his life. The, about 3000, members of the National People’s Congress- China’s largely ceremonial Parliament – voted unanimously, after the Constitution was changed, to remove the traditional two-term limit for President. There was not even one vote against the change.

Previously, in October 2022, Jinping broke another tradition when he had himself named for a third fiver-year term as Party General Secretary. That’s a lot of power in one hand.

This week, a shooter opened fire after a religious service at a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in Hamburg, Germany, killing seven people. German police are searching for a motive of the killing. The gunman is believed to have acted alone in the attack, and died at the scene.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Germany, but there has been several attacks in recent years, both by jihadists and far-right extremists.

Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are an international church founded in the United States with headquarters in Warwick, New York, where a Governing Body consisting of a group of elders establishes all doctrines based on ‘its interpretation’ of the Bible. It has a world membership of about 8.5 million and about 170,000 in Germany.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JW) worship Jehovah, the one true and Almighty God, the God of the Bible, and who is the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. JW imitate Jesus Christ, claiming to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and his apostles practiced.

JW have beliefs that are distinct from mainstream Christianity. They believe that the destruction of the present world at Armageddon (end of the world scenario) is imminent and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth is the only solution to all problems faced by humanity.

Members are known for door-to-door preaching and distributing literature in public places. Their distinctive practices include refusal, to bear arms, enlist for military service, receive blood transfusions, salute state symbols, or participate in a secular government. They do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, birthdays, religious holidays, or follow other Christian customs.

A Japanese researcher Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi from Osaka University has told a major genetics conference that he has created eggs from the cells of male mice. The research, still in its early stages, involved turning male XY sex chromosomes into female XX ones. The development, which he has submitted for publication in the scientific Journal Nature, raises the prospect of male couples having their own children. Details were presented at the human gene-editing summit at the Crick Institute in London, United Kingdom.

Prof Hayashi, a globally respected expert in the field, told delegates that the work was at a very early stage. The eggs were of low quality and the technique could not be used safely on humans, as yet. But current problems could be overcome in ten years and then made available as a fertility treatment for both male and female, and same sex couples if it is proven to be safe to use on humans. And approved by Governments.

The technique involves first taking a skin cell from a male mouse and then turning it into a stem cell – a cell that can turn into other types of cell. The cells are male and therefore have XY chromosomes. Prof Katsuhiko’s team then delete the Y chromosome, duplicate the X chromosome and then stick the two X’s together. This adjustment allows the stem cell to be programmed to become an egg. The technique could be used to help infertile couples where women are unable to produce their own eggs.

Prof Hayashi said he would not be in favour of it being used by a man to create a baby using his own sperm and artificially created eggs.

Sometimes, we need a fascinating story to break the monotony and shed light on darker things. The 95th Academy Awards Function – the Oscars – is coming up early next week. And by way of warming-up to the Oscars here is a ‘little long, dark-light’ story. Lights, camera, action.

Long ago, in the year 1936 in the growing-up years of the Oscars, a bizarre, bewildering, and different woman with a delicate oval face, eloquent emerald eyes, bright red lips, and alabaster skin won a best actress nomination. By doing do, she cemented her place alongside Hollywood’s greats and the glamour paragons of the day, such as Actress Katharine Hepburn and the eventual winner, Bette Davis.

She is Merle Oberon, the first Asian Woman to be nominated for the Oscars, and who took Hollywood by storm in the 1930’s. She was nominated for Best Actress for her role in the coming-of-age drama, ‘The Dark Angel’. It was only after her death in 1979, that the world discovered Oberon was a South Asian, Anglo-Indian woman passing for white.

Born Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson in the then British administered City of Bombay, Oberon was determined to make the most of her innately fair complexion as an Anglo-Indian. It became her ticket to a bigger world, the shroud that helped disguise the fact that she was the product of rape. Her birth father was an Anglo-Irish foreman of a tea plantation. Her mother, who was of Sri Lankan and Maori ancestry, was about 12 when she gave birth to Oberon, in 1911.

After centuries of intermixing, babies born from biracial relationships had evolved into a quiet shame, shunned by Britons and Indians alike.

The family nicknamed Oberon, ‘Queenie’, as her birth coincided with Queen Mary and King George’s visit to India. In an attempt to avoid scandal and soften ‘Oberon’s mix’ in life, her birth grandmother, Charlotte Selby, raised Oberon as her own child and convinced her that her teenage biological mother, Constance, was actually her half sister. But that wasn’t enough to shield Oberon from the relentless taunts over her mixed heritage.

The family moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1917 after Oberon’s father, Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson’s death. She won a scholarship to attend ‘La Martiniere Calcutta’ one of the city’s private, elite best all-girls, day schools, only for classmates to drive her out with their overt racism. Films and the nightlife scene became her escape, and pretending to be something she wasn’t became key to her survival. She got her start in acting through the Calcutta Amateur Theatrical Society in 1920.

In her adolescence, Oberon began honing a posh accent and lightening her skin with bleach creams loaded with ammoniated mercury – a dangerous poison that had more of a weakening effect on Oberon’s many male suitors. Those who didn’t dump her outright, after discovering her race, helped sponsor her moves from India to France, and England, where she worked for a time as a club hostess under the name Queenie O’Brien.

She began her career in British films with mostly forgettable roles or bit parts. She appeared in uncredited roles in films, a pattern that would unfortunately repeat itself regularly over three years.

Then she became romantically involved with the Hungarian-born British director Alexander Korda and Oberon’s acting career moved into high gear. Korda cast her as Anne Boleyn in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ (1933), opposite Actor Charles Laughton. And Oberon married Korda in real life.

After her portrayal of Lady Marguerite Blakeney in ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ (1934), Hollywood beckoned, and she left England to try her hand in US films.

After Oberon was injured and her face scarred in a car crash in 1937, cinematographer Lucien Ballard famously developed a technique that lit her in a way that would obscure her facial scars. The technique, which went on to be called the ‘Obie light’ was also believed to be a way to ‘whiten’ Merle’s face before the camera. Maybe the light had an effect and Oberon divorced Korda and married Ballard in 1945.

During her ride in Hollywood, Oberon had an on-again, off-again affair with the famous Actor John Wayne, from 1938 to 1947.

To avoid prejudice over her mixed background, Merle Oberon created a cover story of being born and raised in Tasmania, Australia, and her birth records being destroyed in a fire. The story eventually unravelled only after her death.

Her most notable portrayal was that of the beautiful Cathy, who tormented and rejected Heathcliff -played by Laurence Olivier-in the 1939 classic ‘Wuthering Heights’.

In 1957, Oberon married wealthy Italian industrialist Bruno Pagliai. They adopted two children, a girl and a boy, and settled into two lavish homes: one in Mexico City and another in Cuernavaca. Oberon doted on her children and ran her two households with military precision. While she bloomed as an international hostess, she made fewer and fewer films.

Oberon also produced her last film, ‘Interval’ (1973), which was financed by Bruno Pagliai, although their marriage was all but over by then. In the movie, Oberon portrays an ageing woman who falls in love with a younger man.

Oberon retired after ‘Interval’ and true to script fell in love with her co-star Robert Wolders. And after marrying him, moved to Malibu, California, where she died in 1979, aged 68, after suffering a stroke.

Meanwhile, Oberon’s mother Constance married Alexander Soares and had four other children. One of them, Harry, eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, retaining grandmother Charlotte’s maiden name, Selby. When Harry tracked down Merle’s birth certificate in Indian government records in Bombay(Mumbai), he was surprised to discover that he was in fact Oberon’s half-brother, not her nephew. He attempted to visit her in Los Angeles, but she refused to see him. Harry withheld that information from Oberon’s biographer Charles Higham. And eventually revealed it only to Maree Delofski, the creator of the 2002 documentary ‘The Trouble with Merle’, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which investigated the various conflicting versions of Merle’s origin.

More dark, hidden stories, brightened by the ‘Obie light’ will be showing in the weeks ahead. Stay with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 22 January to 28 January 2023: Tanks for Ukraine; the year of the rabbit; shooting in America, a new Prime Minister for New Zealand; India’s mobile phone Operating System, and Republic Day; Australian Open Tennis; and the Oscar nominations.


Tanks for Ukraine

After weeks of squabbling, Germany has finally taken some responsibility to help Ukraine win the war against the bullying invasion of Russia.

This week, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, confirmed that Germany will indeed send 14 Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine and give permission for other countries to send theirs too. It follows weeks of international pressure from Ukraine and its allies to approve export of German-made tanks. Poland, for example, has been pressurising Germany to send the Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. If they wouldn’t do that, at least authorise other NATO Allies to send them, while hinting that should Germany fail to give its consent, Poland would go ahead anyway, offering to send 14 of its own Leopards. Adding-up, in another part of the world, United States (US) President Joe Biden also announced plans to send 31 Abram Tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky believes his country needs at least 300 battle tanks to be able to defeat Russia. But, why so much focus on tanks?

Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon provided to Ukraine so far, a heavily armed and armoured system designed to meet Russia head-on, instead of firing from a distance-taking the fight to the heart of the enemy. If used smartly with necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig-in defensive positions. It remains to be seen if the Tanks would be a real game-changer!

Meanwhile, Russia is warning that any deliveries of US tanks would be a blatant provocation and vows to ‘burn all tanks in Ukraine’. Look who’s talking about blatant provocation? Russia is always looking for a reason to keep the fire burning!


New Zealand was quick to fill its tank following the stunning but graceful resignation of Prime Minister (PM)Jacinda Ardern, who declared that her tank was empty. Chris Hipkins, 44, was unanimously elected as the Leader of the Labour Party and was sworn-in as Prime Minister this Wednesday.

Chris Hipkins was first elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2008 and was appointed minister for Covid19 in November 2020. He was often seen on national Television talking to the people and steering the country during the pandemic. Prior to elevation to PM, he was minister for police, education, and public service.

Chris Hipkins is known as ‘Chippy’- a nickname derived from his initials, but which may have stuck thanks to an upbeat, slightly school-boyish demeanour. Hipkins has a reputation in Parliament for a sense of humour, fast quips, and a self-deprecating streak.

Hipkins married partner Jade Marie in 2020 and has two children from the relationship. The couple divorced in 2022, deciding to go their separate ways, but stay friends to bring up their 6 years old son and 4 years old daughter.

How long Hipkins will be in office is uncertain as New Zealand holds a general election in October this year. He will have less than nine months before contesting a tough election, with opinion polls indicating his party is trailing its Conservative Opposition.

The Year of The Rabbit

The year of the Rabbit is upon us. And we need all the carrots we can find. The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on 22 January 2023. It is the most important holiday in China, and widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population.

The rabbit is the fourth in the twelve-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the Chinese Zodiac related to the Chinese Calendar. Last year it was the year of the Tiger, and the next year it would be the year of the Dragon-that’s more like China!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, first comes the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and in the end, the Pig.

America’s Shooting Rounds

Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Monterey Park, about 16 kilometres from Los Angeles, US, for a Lunar New Year festival. Late that night, a gunman opened fire in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio Hall, killing 10 people and injuring 10 others.

About 30 minutes later, the Shooter attempted another attack in the neighbouring city of Alhambra, before he was disarmed. He entered the studio, but two people managed to wrestle the weapon off him-a semi-automatic assault pistol with an extended magazine-and he escaped.

Police have identified the gunman as Huu Can Tran, 72, who was later found dead in a white van. He had a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was declared dead at the scene. The motive behind the shooting is not yet known.

Barely 48 hours after the mass shooting in Monterey Park yet another shot to the headlines, this time with 7 killed in the Half Moon Bay area of California. The suspected shooter, Chunli Zhao, 66, was arrested by Police, two hours after the incident, in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office. The weapon used was found in his car. He legally owned the semi-automatic gun and the incident appears to be a workplace violence case.

Will America ever get off its Wild West Shooting?


The Operation Systems (OS) of the mobiles and smart-phones we own mostly run on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Now India has come out with an indigenous OS, called BharOS, developed by JandKops (J and K Operations Private Limited) incubated by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras’ Pravartak Technologies Foundation.

This week BharOS was successfully tested by India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. This is a great leap forward in India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat journey of becoming self-reliant in manufacturing.

The new, indigenously developed, mobile OS aims to reduce over-dependence on foreign OS in smartphones and enhance the security and privacy of users. It comes with no default apps and therefore gives users the option ‘to not use’ an unfamiliar app. It provides more control over permissions and data that Apps seek from smartphone users. The new OS will provide access to trusted Apps via organisation-specific Private App Store Services (PASS), which is a list of curated Apps that meet security and privacy standards.

BharOS also provides ‘Native Over The Air’ (NOTA) updates to ensure enhanced security of the devices. NOTA updates are automatically downloaded and installed on the device, without the need for the user to manually initiate the process. This ensures that the device is always running on the latest version of the operating system, which includes the latest security patches and bug fixes.

Initial reviews say that BharOS is less of an alternative, more of a fork version: when a developer takes a copy source code from one software package and starts independent development on it, creating a distinct and separate piece of software.

India’s Republic Day

India celebrated its 74th Republic Day on 26th January with the usual gusto, colour, and spectacular display of made-in-India weapons, on the revamped and renamed Kartavaya (meaning duty) Path – the 2km stretch from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan- in India’s capital, New Delhi.

PM Narendra Modi donned a multicolour Rajasthani turban symbolising the diverse culture of India. Last year it was an Uttarakhand Cap embellished with a Brahmakamal (a sacred flower)inspired brooch.

Being invited as the Chief Guest at Republic Day celebrations is the highest honour India accords another country in terms of protocol, and this year the Chief Guest was Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

In many firsts, the British-era 25-pounder guns were replaced with the indigenous 105mm Indian Field Guns for the 21-Gun Salute. Another was the Rajasthan Frontier of Border Security (BSF) preparing the world’s first camel mounted women’s squad with more than 20 women officers taking part in the contingent.

The Government also released its annual list of Padma Awards. The Padma Vibhushan-second highest civilian award-was awarded to noted Architect B V Doshi (posthumous), tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, Indian-American mathematician Srinivasa Varadhan, Oral Rehydration Solution pioneer Dilip Mahalanabis (posthumous), along with two others.

Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla of the Aditya Birla Group, scientist Deepak Dhar and philanthropist Sudha Murthy (wife of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy) were awarded the Padma Bhushan. Also joining them was Kannada Writer SL Bhyrappa, Artist Singer Vani Jayaram, and Linguistics Scholar Kapil Kapoor.

91 People were awarded the Padma Sri, which included Investor Rakesh Jhunjhwala, Actress Raveena Tandon, and music director M M Keeravaani who composed the music for Oscar nominated ‘Naatu Nattu’ Telugu song.

Many unsung heroes from across India were also honoured including a 102 year old artist from West Bengal, a snake-catcher duo from Tamil Nadu and a 98 yearly organic farmer from Sikkim. The expert snake-catchers, Vadivel Gopal & Masi Sadaiyan are Irula Tribals from Tamil Nadu. Their expertise and traditional knowledge of snake-catching has ‘found teeth’ in many countries.

The Awards itself will be given in a glittering function in March this year, when all the awardees parade themselves – and we get to see them, if we havent already. I hope the snake-catchers don’t turn up with a snake coiled-up around themselves!


The Australian Open (AO) is being served in Australia and Novak Djokovic is in scintillating form playing arguably the best tennis of his career. He brushed aside world No. 6, Russia’s Andrey Rublev in straight sets to reach the semifinals. And stayed perfect in the semifinals, beating America’s Tommy Paul, again in straight sets, to make a record-extending 10th men’s final. In the process he sailed past Andre Agassi’s record of 26 wins. The 35 years old Djokovic is one match away from a record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam victory.

The Women’s Singles Finals coming up this Saturday is Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina versus Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, which will bring the countries they represent into the spotlight.

This AO was also the swan song of one of India’s greatest women players, Sania Mirza, who partnering with Rohan Bopanna in the mixed-doubles reached the finals only to lose to Brazil’s Lusia Stefani and Rafel Matos. Sania is retiring from Professional Tennis after this match and marches into the sunset…with her young son looking on-he shared a hug with mom, on Court.

This week, two-time Olympic gold medalist and American Skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin secured her 83rd World Cup win to break fellow American Lindsey Vonn’s record, in the 57th International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup. With this World Cup victory Shiffrin is only three wins behind the 86 wins of overall record holder- in both men’s and women’s skiing-held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.

Please Yourself

The end of last week was abuzz with news about the second man to ever step foot on the Moon, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin getting married for the fourth time. Remember in 1969 he followed crew-mate ‘first man on the Moon’ Neil Armstrong who was on the moon’s surface for two hours and 32 minutes and Aldrin spent about 15 minutes less than that. Aldrin is one of four people alive to have walked on the moon.

Said Aldrin, “On my 93rd birthday and the day I will also be honoured by Living Legends of Aviation I am pleased to announce that my longtime love Dr. Anca Faur & I have tied the knot. We were joined in holy matrimony in a small private ceremony in Los Angeles & are as excited as eloping teenagers.”

Dr Faur, 63, who has a PhD in chemical engineering, is the Executive Vice President of Aldrin’s company, Buzz Aldrin Ventures. Aldrin posted two photos of himself in a tuxedo and Faur in a long-sleeved glittering dress. Honey, there is still honey in the Moon.

The Oscars are Coming

This Week the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced. ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ leads the year’s Academy Awards, with 11 nominations. Other best picture nominees include Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water and The Banshees of Inisherin.

The best actor nominees include Cate Blanchett, Brendan Fraser, Britain’s Andrea Riseborough, and Bill Nighy.

The song ‘Naatu Naatu’ from the hit Telugu-language film RRR has won a best original song Oscar nomination. It’s the first Indian feature film to be nominated for anything other than best international film at the Academy Awards. The song has been a favourite at award ceremonies and has already won a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award. It will be up against heavyweights Lady Gaga and Rihanna, whose songs are nominated in the same Oscars category.

The last time an Indian won an Oscar for a film’s music was in 2009, when composer A R Rahman won best original song and best original score for the song ‘Jai Ho’ from the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, directed by Britain’s Danny Boyle.

This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on 12th March.

More catching stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay coiled with World Inthavaaram. And win Awards.


About: the world this week, 20 February to 26 February 2022, war-an invasion, chess, a not so noble gas, elections, and a Western movie that hopes to lasso a barnful of Oscars!


War (and Peace?)

Finally, after weeks of invasion of the media by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the stalemate ended. And the world’s worst fears came true: Russia ‘royally’ invaded Ukraine through the Donbas region on 24 February 2022 calling it a ‘special military operation’ with the goal of ‘demilitarising and denazifying’ Ukraine: it made claims (false) about genocide perpetrated against ethnic Russians in the eastern parts of Ukraine, and they asking for help as one of many reasons.

I never knew invading another Country was so easy-never mind the preparation-without any kind of overt provocation by Ukraine. And all along implying that it was going to happen.

Read the basics of the build-up of the story at:

We have to give it to the United States (US) for using their superior ‘intelligence’ with President Biden’s relentless invasion theory bearing fruit. But they could do nothing to prevent it. Ukraine, despite its intent, has not yet joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If it had, NATO troops can enter Ukraine to defend it. Now, the best that NATO can do is watch from across the Borders. And keep gathering intelligence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We do not intend to occupy Ukraine. To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me”.

The scope of the Russian attack appears to be massive, with cruise and ballistic missiles targeting infrastructure near major cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Dnipro.

This come days after Putin recognised the independence of Ukraine’s two eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and ordered Russian forces into these regions as what he called ‘peacekeepers’, wow! And this also comes weeks after Russia amassed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders.

A fantastic case of Russia being the criminal, the prosecutor, and the judge – all rolled into one tank and shot into Ukraine.

Recall, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia rebels have since been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 14,000 people were killed in that conflict.

Ukraine is also known for the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster – considered the worst nuclear disaster in history – that occurred on 26 April 1986 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Russia would be looking to seal off this site to prevent any new kind of new danger spilling over from the, now shut-down and boundary isolated nuclear power plant. Well, it did just that on entering Ukraine.

Three decades ago, the newly independent country of Ukraine was briefly the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Thousands of nuclear arms had been left on Ukrainian soil by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But in the years that followed, Ukraine made the decision to completely denuclearise – destroying or returning its nuclear arsenal to Russia. In exchange, the US, the United Kingdom(UK), and Russia would guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and border security in a 1994 agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum. Now Russia has failed that trust. And the US and UK too?

It beguiles me, what do you call such a reckless invasion by a responsible nuclear superpower? Can it ever be trusted? Russia’s action is unacceptable and condemnable. It sets a dangerous precedent in attacking an independent country on fictitious, flimsy reasons; a country that has chosen its own path and has not shown any unprovoked military aggression against Russia.

What options does Ukraine have? Fight it out or lay down arms-to avoid bloodshed -talk it over with Russia and accept not to join NATO, for a start? Where does the United Nations (UN) come in, when will it grow teeth?

There is enough of Russia for Russia. Otherwise there is all of Space to occupy, if they can. Live and let live!


‘I was just enjoying myself’, so said 16 years old Chess Grandmaster (GM) Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, when he stunned the World No 1, Magnus Carlsen, in the eighth round of the Airthings Masters Online Rapid Chess Tournament. He became only the third from the country- after Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna – to earn a victory over the Norwegian Chess superstar, in any form of the game.

Praggnanandhaa is a chess prodigy, the fifth-youngest person ever to achieve the title of GM, behind Abhimanyu Mishra, Sergey Karjakin, Dommaraju Gukesh (Gukesh D), and Javokhir Sindarov. He is the younger sibling of Woman GM Vaishali Rameshbabu.

Praggnanandhaa won the World Youth Chess Championships Under-8 title in 2013. In 2016, Praggnanandhaa became the youngest international GM in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days.

We have a new King in the Castle. And he comes armed with a coolness beyond his years and ash smeared on his forehead. Mind it!

India has nearly 70 GM’s now, up from 20 in 2007. Twelve of them are women. That’s a formidable army: Russia, and others, beware!


The ‘Airthings’, in the Rapid Chess Tournament Title, quickly caught my eye before Praggnanandhaa could make his next move. What is Airthings?

Established in 2008, Airthings is a global tech company which aims to educate people on the prevalence of Radon, as well as other indoor air contaminants, and develop technology solutions to help people measure the dangers lurking inside homes and tackle them to live a healthy indoor life.

Airthings makes user-friendly Radon detectors to measure Radon levels in Homes and Buildings akin to the common smoke detectors. Radon testing for homeowners has been stationary for almost 30 years. Traditionally, people only had two options: call a professional to test radon levels, or purchase a single-use charcoal test which was then sent to a laboratory for the results. Airthings broke this tradition by designing, making, and supplying affordable Radon and other indoor air quality sensors trying to make them essential and a universal element in every building.

Next, what is Radon, why does it need to be measured?

Radon is an inert, colourless, odourless, radioactive, noble gas, present in the atmosphere in trace amounts; produced by the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of uranium and thorium present in rocks, soil, and groundwater. Since it emanates from the earth’s crust, the level of Radon at a place varies depending on the uranium content of the location. When Radon deteriorates, it releases radioactive energy, which is a health hazard. And can cause lung cancer. People can be exposed to the gas primarily from breathing Radon in the air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes from the base foundation. There is Radon in water too, because it can permeate well waters, hot and cold springs, making water unsafe to drink. When these gases are confined inside houses, it accumulates to dangerous concentration levels.

Outdoors, Radon disperses rapidly and, generally can be ignored. Breathing Radon over time increases risk of lung cancer and is the second leading cause of lung cancer (in the US, for one). Only smoking causes more deaths.

Indoor Radon can be controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques based on Testing. If Radon levels are high, a certified Radon service professional can fix the problem.

A , 0 to 48 Becquerels/cubic meter (Bq/cubic meter) level of Radon is safe and normal. If it reaches 100 Bq/cubic meter, a ventilation solution has to be found. Guidelines suggest a mitigating action if levels are at or above 148 Bq/cubic meter . Usually, Radon problems are fixed using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in the building-through fresh-air and exhaust fans.

I brought this up to bring awareness on indoor pollutants, especially Radon, as I could hardly see it ‘permeate’ our knowledge!


Elections seen to be always happening in India’s noisy democracy, in a never-ending cycle. An election buzz seems to be everywhere, every few months.

This week saw the counting of the Urban Local Body Elections in the State of Tamilnadu-held after 10 years -where the party ruling the State romped home. But not before the national party, ruling at the Centre made its mark in the State. Analysts are out there, with their calculators trying to work out the math from the wins and losses.

I think people voted for continuity to see that the party which just won the State Assembly Elections, also rules the Local Bodies. No excuses hereinafter, for the winners. Deliver, or pack and leave.

Meanwhile, State Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur, and Uttarakhand are in various phases of completion. Punjab, Goa, and Uttarakhand voted on a single day on 14 February. Manipur votes in two phases on 27 February and 3 March 2022. Uttar Pradesh is voting in seven phases: 10 February, 14 February, 20 February, 23 February, 27 February, 3 March, and 7 March 2022.

Counting of votes for all the Sates that went to the polls over the past weeks of February is scheduled on 10 March 2022. Testing times ahead.

Please Yourself

This week I found time to see the power of The Power of the Dog, a movie expected to make a big bite at the Oscars with an awesome 12 nominations in various categories in the 94th Academy Awards Night, coming up later in March 2022. I read that this year it will be hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes.

The Power of the Dog is a powerful, haunting, psychological Western movie thriller where instead of guns you have the bango, the piano, the cattle, the landscape, and the raw cowhide doing the shooting. It is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil), Kirsten Dunst(Rose), Jesse Plemons(George), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter), and is directed by New Zealand Director, Screenwriter, and Producer, Jane Champion.

A wealthy American ranch in Montana, is run by brothers Phil and George. While Phil is blunt, cruel, and aggressively emulates his late mentor Bronco Henry in his traditional rawhide cowboy dressing, George is cool, polished, a perfect gentlemen with suit, tie, and hat to boot.

During a cattle drive George falls for inn-keeper Rose who is a widow with a teenage son, Peter. George lifts Rose to the ranch after marrying her, and sends her son to College to study medicine-surgery. Phil plays on the emotions of Rose with his coldness, pushing her into drinking, turning her in an alcoholic wreck, all the while mocking Peter’s effeminate manners.

Peter comes over to the ranch during a College break, feels his Mom’s condition, and snares and dissects a Rabbit to show-off his dissecting skills. He is befriended by Phil after Peter catches him bathing in a secluded pond and masturbating with a Bronco Henry scarf around his neck. Peter also discovers a stack of the magazines of nude men with the mentor’s name on them near the secret pond.

Phil teaches Peter to ride a horse and even starts making a lasso of raw cowhide for him to twine their friendship. Their warmth irks Rose and drives her further in an abyss. And one day, in a drunken stupor, she defiantly sells unused hides – normally burnt off by Phil – to a native Indian, when Phil & Peter are out for a ride together.

When Phil discovers his hides are gone, he creates a ruckus, and is unable to complete twining of the lasso he was working on. Peter offers him some hide he had himself cut-off, using a surgeon’s gloves, from a cow, which had died of Anthrax. Phil works through the night, with Peter watching, to finish off the lasso inadvertently allowing an injured bloody wound in his hand to soak in the solution used to soften the rawhide. During the process Phil narrates a story of Bronco Henry saving his life in freezing weather with the heat of his body and does not answer Peter’s question of whether they did it naked. Peter, in turn tells him about having to cut down the corpse of his alcoholic father who had killed himself by hanging. And that his father told him he was not ‘kind enough’.

The next day Phil is found sick in bed and later dies (of Anthrax – says the Doctor). George is puzzled about the Anthrax as Phil was awfully careful in staying away from dead cattle.

In the end Peter, who avoided Phil’s funeral, smiles on seeing his Mom embrace George outside the ranch, and perhaps live happily ever after. He pushes the Phil-made lasso, with a gloved hand, beneath his bed. You need to figure out yourself on what happened to Phil – that’s an unspoken, but ‘clear’ mystery.

Superb acting by the cast, especially Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kirsten Dunst who drinks into the character.

I found the music score, composed by English musician Jonny Greenwood who is the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the rock band Radiohead, filling the film to the brim. Made me grow my ears!

More Eastern and Western stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Wars do not work-live peacefully with World Inthavaaram.


About: the world this week, 6 February to 12 February 2022, a week which screamed and bursted at its seams in a frenzy of stories about roads, hijabs, oratory, nightingales, cricket, and the Oscar Award nominations.



Canada has a road-rage problem. Thousands of Canadians have hit the streets in trucks, tractors, cars, and on foot, clogging driveways to protest the Country’s Covid-19 restrictions. With persistent and noisy horn-honking, protesters are demanding lifting of health restrictions, including Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates, lockdowns, and the kind. This is part of the ‘Freedom Convoy’, which was initially started by truckers protesting a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.

This week, the protestors stormed and blocked a key bridge that accounts for about 27% of the trade between the United States (US) and Canada. And one that serves as an auto-parts supply chain between the two countries. Well, there are no spare roads and no spare parts too.

While the truckers blocked roads in Canada, across the ‘key bridge’ and yonder border, it’s being revealed that the most dangerous way to travel in the US – roads – became even more deadly during the coronavirus pandemic: roadway deaths soared at the highest rate in recorded history.

Road safety advocates say the numbers match their experience along Maryland Route 210, a six-lane, largely straight stretch with busy business and residential intersections, south of the capital, Washington. It’s called Indian Head Highway, but some call it ‘the highway of death,’ due to dozens of fatal accidents on this highway, over the past decade. “We have roads that are designed for efficient travel, not for safety. These are preventable crashes”, says a Road Expert.

Safety recommendations include increasing enforcement and education campaigns; requiring vehicles to come with collision warning and automatic braking systems; and distracted driving policies that recognise even hands-free devices take a driver’s attention away from the road.


It all started with a group of six girls suddenly deciding to wear the Hijab (head-scarf/head covering) to the Government Pre-University College for Girls in Udupi, Karnataka State, last December, when it was never done before. Their argument was, there was no clear instruction on not wearing a Hijab, hence why not? They claimed it was their right under the Indian Constitution. The College decided not to allow girls wearing a hijab and prevented them from entering the College, based on ‘uniform rules’ thinking, which power it owns for the making. Following this incident, in a tit-for-tat strike, a group of boys at the Government Pre-University College in Kundapur, also in Karnataka State, went to college sporting saffron shawls in protest against some girls attending classes wearing the hijab. With the issue spreading like wildfire across Karnataka, Schools and Colleges were shutdown – thanks to the lockdown technology we learnt over the past pandemic months.

The matter was then dragged to the Courts, when the Colleges had the authority to decide and should have simply enforced a uniform dress code -banning any religion proving outfits. The Courts said exactly that: no hijab or saffron shawl, until a more detail uncovering is done. Back to where we started.

We cannot allow religious practices to intrude into Education and it’s time India gets cracking on a Uniform Civil Code, which the Constitution says we must have.

Oratory, Elections

India’s Prime Minister hammered the Opposition to pulp, in fiery oratory, in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, defending his Government’s performance and schemes. His timing with the State of Goa was perfect-what with elections coming up- on it getting independence 15 years all other parts of India obtained theirs, and the ‘brother of a Nightingale’ hailing from Goa being chucked out of India’s Radio Station for reciting a freedom fighter’s poem-all in the Opposition ruled years.

The elections in India’s largest northern State of Uttar Pradesh, said to be the bellwether of National Elections in 2024, began on 10 February and will go up to 7 March 2022. It elects 403 members to the State Legislature. Votes will be counted and results declared on 10 March 2022.


Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s biggest cultural icons and influential singer, called ‘The Nightingale of India’, died in Mumbai, aged 92, due to post-Covid-19 complications. Earlier, in January 2022, Lata was admitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Nightingale began singing since her teens and ended up defining music and melody for generations in a career spanning 73 years, delivering more than 15,000 songs across 36 languages. Her work in India’s Hindi film industry -Bollywood- made her a national icon.

Lata Mangeshkar has received several awards chief among them being, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award – India’s highest award in the field of cinema- in 1989. And the Bharat Ratna-India’s highest civilian honour- in 2001.

Born in Indore in the Central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh in 1929, she began learning music at the age of five from her father, Deenanath Mangeshkar, who was a theatre artist. Deenanath adopted the surname Mangeshkar to identify his family with his native town of Mangeshi, in the State of Goa. Lata was named ‘Hema’ at her birth, but her parents later renamed her Lata after a female character, Latika, in one of her father’s plays. She was the eldest child in the family, with Meena, Asha, Usha, and Hridaynath, in birth order, being her siblings. All are accomplished singers and musicians in their own right. The best known is Asha Bhosle who is as famous as Lata.

After her father’s death, the family moved to Mumbai where a teenage Lata began singing for Marathi movies. She also took-up small roles in a few films to support her family, but would say later that her heart wasn’t in it. ‘I was happiest singing’ she said.

There’s a story that once her father asked one of his music disciples to practice a ‘raag’ while he finished some urgent work. Lata was playing nearby and when suddenly a note of the ‘raag’ that the disciple was rendering, jarred, Lata latched on to it and began correcting him. When her father returned, he discovered a discipline in his own daughter. The rest, they say, is history.

Her big break came in 1949 with the release of a haunting song titled ‘Aayega Aanewala’ for the movie ‘Mahal’. And thereafter there was no looking back.

Initially, she is said to have imitated the acclaimed singer Noor Jehan, but she later developed her own style of singing. She brought a new signature style to Indian film music, moving away from mehfil-style (celebration) performances to suit both ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ female protagonists. A soprano range voice with less volume or amplitude, she had enough weight in her voice to give definite shape to the melody of Indian film songs. Although she had limited coloratura (an elaborate melody with ornamentation and embellishments) skills in her early career, she developed better tone and pitch as she progressed in her playback career. Lyrics of songs in Hindi movies are primarily composed by Urdu poets and contain a higher proportion of Urdu words, including the dialogues. Actor Dilip Kumar once made a mildly disapproving remark about her accent while singing Hindi/Urdu songs; so for a period of time, she took lessons in Urdu.

Lata said that Noor Jehan heard her as a child and had told her to practice a lot. The two stayed in touch with each other for many years to come.

Noor Jehan was a famous Pakistani singer and actress who worked both in India and Pakistan. Being highly versatile, she could sing in several languages including Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Sindhi, and had recorded over 10,000 songs in her career. When the partition of India happened in 1947, Noor Jehan decided to move to Pakistan and settled in Karachi with her family. She was given the title of ‘Malika-e-Tarannum’ (the Queen of Melody) in Pakistan.

Lata Mangeshkar’s solos and immortal duets with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar along with a legion of other prominent Indian singers, are among Hindi cinemas most memorable and treasured songs.

The 1974 edition of The Guinness Book of Records had listed Lata Mangeshkar as the most recorded artist. But the claim was contested by Mohammed Rafi. The book continued to list Lata’s name but also mentioned Rafi’s claim. The entry was removed in 1991 until 2011, in which Guinness put Lata’s sister (Asha Bhosle) as the most recorded artist. Currently, Pulapaka Susheela ( P. Susheela)-another Indian Playback Singer associated mostly with South Indian cinema- holds the honour.

Lata Mangeshkar recorded her last song ‘Saugandh Mujhe Is Mitti Ki’, which was composed by Mayuresh Pai, as a tribute to the Indian Army and nation. It was released on 30 March 2019.

Lata Mangeshkar never married, staying single, singing like a nightingale until her breath was no more. Rest In Peace, Lata Mangeshkar

India has lost two nightingales since independence. The other ‘Nightingale of India’ was Sarojini Naidu known as such because of her mesmerising poetry. Her works, rich in imagery, covered a variety of themes – love, death, separation among others. Most of her poems have lines repeated across stanzas. This is similar to a Nightingale’s song: repetitive, yet beautiful.


The International Cricket Council (ICC)’s Under-19 ‘Boys’ World Cup Cricket Finals was played in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, West Indies, last Saturday. A very dominant India won a record-extending fifth World Cup-in seven outings of the game-title beating England by four wickets in an extraordinary campaign that was almost derailed by the Covid-19 outbreak. The triumph bore a ruthless resemblance to earlier conquering adventures of the fabulous Under-19 Indian Teams.

India chased down a target of 190 runs in 47.4 overs, reaching 195 for six. Nishant Sindhu played an unbeaten match-winning knock of 50 runs off 54 balls to help India edge past England’s score. Kaushal Tambe had a heart-in-the-mouth moment when fielding in deep square leg, England’s James Rew, batting on 95 pulled a Ravi Kumar delivery towards him. And Tambe almost spilled the ball while trying to take the catch but recovered in time to jump forward and take a stunning one-handed catch to send Rew back to the pavilion. The dismissal was crucial as it broke a 93-run wicket for England’s fourth wicket and India went on to take the remaining two wickets for just five more runs.

Pacer Raj Bawa took five wickets, while wicket keeper Dinesh Bana hit the winning shot(s)with two consecutive sixes to finish the match in style.

Yash Dhull is the winning Indian captain and Tom Prest the losing England captain.

The phenomenal Under-19 win ensures the ‘Indian Cricket Factory’ keeps up a steady supply of youngsters to challenge the past histrionics of the Gavaskars, Kapil Devs, Sachin Tendulkars, Dhonis, and Viraat Kholis. Keep it up, Young India.

Please Yourself

The Oscar nominations 2022 are out with the Academy releasing its nominations this week.

The Power of the Dog -about a domineering rancher (played by Benedict Cumberbatch)-picked up the most nominations. But West Side Story (a Steven Spielberg remake of the yester-years movie),’ Dune – An American epic science fiction film-and Belfast -a British coming of age comedy-drama- were doggedly close behind.

Denzel Washington (Best Actor in, The Tragedy of Macbeth) broke records as the most nominated Black Actor in history. Actress Kristen Stewart (Best Actress as Princess Diana in the movie Spencer) and Singer Beyonce (Best Original Song alongside Dixon) have won their first Academy Award nominations.

Writing With Fire (about a Newspaper run by women) made by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh of India, secured a nomination in the Best Documentation (Feature) category.

The recently released James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ won nominations in Best Sound, Best Original Song, and Best Visual Effects.

More drama and visual stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Bond with World Inthavaaram


About: Lots of illuminating, as well as devastating, stories of what happened this week in our world.


This world’s stage this week was lit by the Oscars-early, and the headlines, burnt and hogged by India, throughout the week.

United States (US)President Joe Biden gave his first address to a joint session of the US Congress on the cusp of 100 days in Office, opening his speech with the never before uttered lines, ‘Madam Speaker, Madam Vice-President-and after a standing ovation-followed it up with, First-Lady, Second Gentleman, Chief Justice… Wonder how many other US Presidents will get to say as much.

American, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) clever Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is on a flip and roll dream, doing gradually increasing flight trips, and I’ve lost count of the many times it took-off, stayed in the thin air of Mars, and landed. Keep it ‘UP’, NASA.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Putin’s arch-critic, Alexei Navalny, put-in jail by the Kremlin to serve an over two-year jail term appeared in public as a gaunt figure, his prison clothes hanging loosely on a withered frame, the result of a 24-day hunger strike against his incarceration and treatment. And he called Putin a ‘King with no clothes’ and a ‘Naked Thieving King’. Navalny’s various Groups were ordered to be suspended, closed, disbanded, and some near to being labelled extremist. How much more can Navalny endure?

In Britain, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces questions, and a possible Inquiry, on the funding of his Downing Street home refurbishment, overseen by his fiancee, Carrie Symonds. Nearby, the British Royals, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William celebrated a decade of marriage-filled with their three children. They released some pictures of how they did the ten years. Worth seeing. Can we expect more babies down the line?

The unrest in Myanmar continues with the Army firing at will and reports of torture of protesting citizens doing the rounds. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been engaging the Army Generals to find a solution and stopping the civilian killings. In another front, The Karen National Union, an ethnic guerrilla group, which is fighting the military said they captured a Myanmar army base near the border with Thailand. I say, restore democracy and get out of the way of being in the lives of ordinary citizens.

Well vaccinated Israel found itself caught in a religious stampede during which 44 died and over 100 injured-the highest ever in an event of this kind. Thousands of worshipers had crowded onto a mountain burial site to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday, an annual event to pay homage to second century Mishnaic sage Rabbi Shim Bar Yochai. But in the early hours of Friday morning, singing and dancing erupted into chaos, as a huge wave of people trapped others beneath them, including children. It is estimated that about 50,000 to 100,000 people had been on the mountain and with thousands of people tightly packed in a small area they had fallen down a staircase and crushed each other. Israel’s Health Ministry had urged people not to attend the festival, warning of the risk of another coronavirus outbreak. However, case numbers have been low, and Israel has already fully vaccinated more than 58% of its population, so the event was allowed to proceed.

While Brazil fights its own coronavirus war, a new species of tiny, poisonous fluorescent, neon orange toadlets was discovered in the mountains of Brazil. This amphibian measures just under an inch and is a part of the pumpkin toadlet genus, a collection of tiny, bright-colored toads. Humans cannot see it with normal light, but when the toadlets are illuminated with Ultra-Violet light, they glow. Researchers have yet to discover why these pumpkin toadlets glow. Lots of illumination happening in the world. Now to other kinds of light and glow.


Born in Beijing, educated in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) as a teenager, before moving permanently to the US, Chole Zhao, all of 39 years, lives by her Dad’s credo, ‘people at birth are inherently good’. This Sunday she became the first Asian Woman in 93 years of the Academy Awards, and only the second woman-after Kathryn Bigelow’s, 2010,The Hurt Locker-to be named as Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles. She drove away with the Award for her ‘stirring road’ film, ‘Nomadland’.

Nomadland is her only her third film, following, ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me’ (2015) and ‘The Rider’ (2017). Coming later this year will be, ‘Eternals’, a Marvel superhero movie starring Angelina Jolie.

Zhao’s professional and personal partner is fellow graduate student, Joshua James Richards, who has worked as cinematographer in all three of Zhao’s films and was nominated for Nomadland.

Zhao is known for her quietly compelling portraits of people, often played by non-professional actors, living in the margins of society in the American West. And she is one of the most distinctive and talented film-makers to emerge in recent years.

I talked about the film ‘Minari’ in an earlier story and the grandmother who brought the seeds of Minari from South Korea, Actress, Yuh-Jung Youn, won the Best Supporting actress and became the first South Korean actress to win in that category.

Hollywood’s biggest night saw women of colour make history. Adding to the blazing colours of Chloe Zhao and Yuh-Jung Youn, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson painted their mark as the first Black women to win for makeup and hairstyling for the movie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Wow, that lights, camera, action, at the end of a black tunnel!

Other major winners are: Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins-The Father; Best Actress, Frances McDormand-Nomadland; Best Cinematographer, Erik Messerschmidt -Mank; Best Costume Designer, Ann Roth-Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Best Music, Trent Reznor, Atticus Roads and Jon Batiste-Soul (a lively animated film); Best Original Screenplay Writer Emerald Fennel-Promising Young Woman.

The Best Picture went to Nomadland. It’s the story of a woman, Fern-played by Frances McDormand-in her sixties who loses her husband, her job, then gives up most of her belongings, buys a van and leaves her hometown to embark on a road journey through the American West, searching for work and living the life of a van-dwelling modern day nomad.

One of the reviews said, ‘It is a hauntingly beautiful, beguiling, and poetic while not sugar coating a difficult lifestyle’. Another was, ‘Director Chole Zhao populates the films with as many perspectives as possible to emphasise that true liberation and spiritual peace of mind are entirely different notions based on who’s answering. There is an unstable beauty to that’.

I haven’t seen Nomadland, as yet, and hope to hit the road to seeing this beautifully made movie, one day. I’ll decide about buying myself a van, later on!

The Storm in India: Staying Alive

India is facing one of the toughest COVID-19, coronavirus infection times ever, with a deadly storm of SARS-CoV-2 caused infections sweeping through the country, overwhelming hospitals, medical workers, and the already gasping healthcare system. India never had a great healthcare infrastructure, but it just about managed to get the job done-especially polio vaccinations-all these years. Now, more than anytime before, developing and ramping-up healthcare and disease outbreak monitoring systems has become, by default, the top-most priority.

During the first wave India, admirably and unbelievably scaled up production of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)and Ventilators from non-existent levels to the the stage of even exporting them, and got-ready Hospital beds in double-quick time.

This time it’s Oxygen and maybe the next time it will be other medicines, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beds, Nurses, and Doctors. India needs to wear battle gear and go to war-with a mirror to itself and the best swords-to defeat this hydra-headed virus of a monster.

The media has a ‘view to a kill’ and is castigating the Indian Government for its actions-and inactions-raining endless ‘natural invectives’ and vocabulary building exercises, such as, crisis, disaster, tragedy, hurricane, deluge, tsunami, catastrophe, apocalypse…sounding as if they wanted it to happen. It says, among many other things, that the deaths of over 3,000 per day cannot be so low and there is undercounting and hiding of figures.

I quietly went back to my own weekly, World Inthavaarm, Posts and this is what I found:

In the week ending, 24th April-last week, we had over 3 lakh cases, the week ending 17th April, over 2 lakh cases, the week ending 10th April it was over 1.4 lakh cases, the week ending 3rd April showed a rapid growth, and in the week ending 27th March it was over 60,000-the formal arrival of the second wave, in the week ending 20th March it was over 40,000, and murmurs of a second wave dissecting the 20,000 cases in the week ending 13 March 2021.

If I could read the uptick in the coronavirus infections I’m sure the Authorities must have, but why was quick action not forthcoming and better preparedness ensured ? Many questions requiring many answers. But the second wave came with a surreptitious ferocity that India was totally unprepared for.

In India after the first peak of about 97,000 positive cases in September 2020, cases dipped for 30 straight weeks before it started to rise again in mid-February this year. On 8th February 2021, India had just about 8,700 cases, which was about the bottom most.

The first signs were a 509% increase in Punjab-since bottoming out, followed by a 331% increase in Maharashtra, a 302 % increase in Haryana, a 164% increase in Madhya Pradesh and a 140% increase in Delhi, all as on 10th March 2021. During this time Kerala was yet to get over its first wave. Bihar saw a rise of daily new cases by 522 times, Uttar Pradesh by 399 times, Andhra Pradesh by 186 times, Delhi and Jharkhand by 150 times, West Bengal by 142 times and Rajasthan by 123 times. Sounds Alarmist?

People let their guard down, complacency and COVID-19 fatigue slithered-in, infected minds and spread like wildfire, and almost all believed that the worst of the pandemic was over. This belief, I think, was reinforced by the ‘return to business as usual’ with huge Election Rallies, Religious Festivals, The Indian Premier League Cricket Tournament, etc., happening, without good-enough steps being taken to adhere to the basic infection prevention techniques we learnt so well over the past one year. However, all of these were held in the great outdoors and their contribution to the current surge of infections is debatable as the second wave began waving in States, which had none of these huge activities.

 What then is the cause? It could be attributed to the variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK and India’s own hometown double mutant B.1.617, which was found to be awfully infectious, and one that learnt to find the fault-lines in the Indian landscape. This wave of the coronavirus is different from the first and not a repeat. Studies show that it might be airborne-after all, staying in the air for about three hours and thereby spreading faster.

Family Functions, Weddings, Funerals, Get-Togethers, saw sizeable gatherings and the virus must have been waiting for an opening to latch-on. It did, by which time India was completely drowned in the wave. If we never knew about the first novel coronavirus this one too remained novel of another kind spreading ruthlessly through the population. I do to think anyone could anticipate this and no amount of preparation would be able to satisfy everybody. What happened to all those beds created and Railway Coaches converted? We need to pull them out and put them to work. It looks like it only has to be managed as it comes, and lessons learnt the hard way. For e.g., about 160 Oxygen Plants were ordered by the Government, with clever foresight in October 2020, but only about 30 were installed due to resistance by the States. Here we are!

Today, India is running over 3 lakh cases per day over several continuous days, and yestedy is crossed 4 lakh cases for the first time with a Positivity Rate of over 20% and about 3,500 deaths. States such as Karnataka and the Union Territory of New Delhi have returned to the lockdown mode and cities like Mumbai and Pune too. Other States are cautiously watching and trying their best to prepare for the worst.

The scenes are heart-breaking and it is as if the people are entirely on their own, either trying to find a Hospital bed, get an Oxygen Cylinder or simply bury/burn the dead.

Vaccine hesitancy is another aspect which has consumed many, with rumours of unproven side affects storming the population. Some Political Leaders even questioned India’s ingeniously developed Vaccine, Covaxin, creating a suspicion in the already angular thinking Indian mind. It has been proved, beyond doubt, that Covaxin effortless tackles the new mutant on the scene.

But we cannot vaccinate ourselves out of a surge of this kind. Vaccines take two weeks from the first dose to take effect and we require an interval of four weeks between the first and second dose. The median incubation period of the virus, by contrast, is four to five days, which means vaccinations will not necessarily avert infections.

What do we do to get out of this seemingly unfathomable abyss?

I found this wonderful advice by Dr. Rana Jawad Asgar, an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nebraska, who has worked for the US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.

‘The Government needs a new risk communication strategy which should be based on providing timely and trustworthy information with workable solutions. Some health professionals have already identified the problem and are educating the public on how to treat themselves at home and when to opt for hospitals. A real-time system of resource availability will help ease the population’s concerns. Improved health intelligence, which is beyond collection of testing numbers, should be institutionalised’.

Political bickering, blaming, and scoring debating points should stop and everyone of us should do our best to support ourselves, the local communities we live-in and the Government, in doing our darnedest, even it means just staying at home. By all means criticise any short coming, but also give a solution-become part of the solution than the problem. Let’s do it.

When the cow falls into the ditch we should put all our efforts in pulling it out, then find out how it fell into the ditch. And decide, make plans and resolve to ensure that it never again falls into the ditch.

Many countries are encouragingly rallying to help India and World is beginning to feel like one community-like it should always.

I’m sure India is up to the task and we will emerge stronger than ever before. For e.g., if there is any country in the World, which can bring over lakhs of Nurses and Doctors for Hospital and ICU duty it is only India. We can do it. This too will pass.

More safe and encouraging stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay alive.


About: The story of how we fired on all our guns this week, in our World.


United Kingdom: The Case For A Return Of Sherlock Holmes

On 3rd March, Sarah Everard, a 33 years old marketing executive vanished into the proverbial thin air, while walking home to Brixton after visiting a friend in Clapham. Both places are about 50 minutes away from each other on foot. A typical walk from Clapham to Brixton takes one through some of London’s most populated, brightly lit, and well-walked parts. Hundreds of people pound these pavements every day and consider the streets in and around them as home.

Sarah left Clapham at 9 pm, and is believed to have walked through Clapham Common, a large park on the route. Soon after she left, Sarah spoke to her boyfriend on her mobile phone for about 15 minutes, and was last spotted in the footage of a doorbell camera at about 9.30pm. A day later, Sarah’s boyfriend contacted the police to report that she was missing. The police then sought public help in tracing her whereabouts, and made ‘missing person’ posts on social media to elicit responses.

A dead body was found, a week later, inside a builder’s bag, in a woodland in Ashford, Kent. Two days later the Police confirmed, through the use of dental records, that it belonged to Sarah Everard.

Then, this week on Tuesday, the police made two arrests – the first was a Scotland Yard police constable, on suspicion of kidnapping, and the second a woman on the suspicion of assisting an offender. Detectives are investigating, and we should be getting a clearer picture in the coming weeks.

Many Londoners shared their own experiences of harassment on streets or public transport and are demanding better protection. Much of the conversation has revolved around what men can do to make women feel more safe. I think this is an important lead to work on. And I hope the case is solved in the manner Sherlock Holmes does, to throw the best possible light on how it happened. Maybe, the fear of getting caught could act as crime-deterrent.

Australia Too

In another Commonwealth, beyond the Oceans, in Australia, tens of thousands of people across the country protested against sexual violence harassment and gender inequality after a wave of sexual assault allegations involving politicians surfaced.

Worlds apart there is about the same problem, which needs urgent attention.

Earth Shakes

When was the last time we heard about an Earthquake, leave alone experiencing one, near us? Give me a break…seems long ago.

Iceland, an Island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, known for its stunning natural beauty, has recorded a whooping 50,000 earthquakes, and more, in the past three weeks, perhaps signalling that a volcanic eruption could be heating-up and melting its way to the surface.

Think about Iceland, and what scorches my mind is its capital Reykjavik-where over 60% of the population live-and where the Reykjavik Summit meeting between the then US President Ronald Reagan and the then Soviet Union’s General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, was held in 1986. They came awfully close to agreeing to a complete elimination of nuclear weapons: of course it wasn’t to be and has remained in history as the nearest successful attempt of leaders of nuclear powers to do so.That itself was earth-shaking.

They say that Iceland is a land of contrasts: ice and fire, glaciers and volcanoes, mountains and lakes, waterfalls and geysers. I cannot agree more!

Meanwhile, Scientists are baffled, putting together the beauty and all the pieces of quake information, tying to make ‘breaking news’ out of it. And Icelanders are learning to live with the ‘Earth shakes’.

The Guns Of Myanmar

Myanmar has been tightly gripped by severe protests since the military seized control on 1st February and detained Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the winner of the General Elections.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, the leader of a group of Myanmar politicians has vowed to press on with a ‘revolution’ against the illegal coup by the military, saying ‘this is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that dawn is close’.

This Sunday 38 people were killed in one of the deadliest retaliation by the Military and martial was declared in six areas after Chinese-funded factories were set on fire. The death count has risen, to at least 138 people being killed, till date, in the ongoing protests.

Over the past weeks the turmoil in Myanmar has been heart-wrenching as new shots of over-the-bar violence by the Ruling Military Junta snakes its way up the headlines every day. India, as a powerful neighbour, and the United Nations (UN) as a far-sighted neutral observer can do more-speak up, defend democracy, and boldly order the Military to hand power back to the people.

America Is Still Shooting, Wild

On 16th March there was yet another deadly shooting incident in the United States of America, in the State of Georgia. Shootings in two massage parlours in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left eight people dead-at least six of them were women of Asian origin.

Police have arrested one man, suspected to be behind all the three shootings. The motive is unclear and investigators are trying to get to the bottom of the muscle.

The shootings are sending shockwaves throughout the Asian American Community as hate-related incidents have increased since the start of the pandemic.

This is not how America should look like, and the recurring shootings bring the issue of Gun Control into the cross-hairs. America must act…before the next shooting engulfs the country, again. This is a tragedy beyond measure.

Should we completely ban guns and return to the bow & arrow mode, or better still, armless combat?

Lifting The Veil, Again.

Sri Lanka has taken a significant step towards banning the burka and other face coverings in public, on grounds of national security. A cabinet order has been signed, which now needs parliamentary approval. A ban can be expected anytime now.

The Government is also planning to ban more than 1,000 madrassa Islamic schools, which flout the national education policy, teaching in their own way.

The move comes nearly two years after a wave of co-ordinated attacks on hotels and churches, on Easter Sunday, brought back bitter memories of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) brand of terrorism. Suicide bombers had targeted Catholic churches and tourist hotels, killing more than 250 people in April 2019. The Islamic State militant group said it had carried out the attacks.

For over two decades Sri Lanka suffered terribly under the ‘wild, militant, separatist presence’ of the LTTE, which controlled and ruled the North Eastern part of the country. It was a Herculean effort that Sri Lanka made to wipe out the LTTE, gunning down its top leaders and scoring a decisive military victory. And they cannot allow other extremists to take the country for a ride, again.

India’s Five State Assembly Elections

After the recent rains of water, it’s now preparing to rain washing machines, solar stoves, cooking gas cylinders, mosquito nets, and other freebies in India’s Tamil Nadu State, which is going to the Polls on 6th April. People have already been drenched with television sets, mixies, grinders, table fans, scooters, cycles, laptops, gold for mangalsutra, milch cows… and they don’t seem to be catching a cold. Housewives maybe paid to do their homework, one in a family given a Government Job, and the swing of cash flows is a tsunami in the making. With dominating charismatic leaders either dead or out-of-action this is a high octane Election campaign.

In Kerala a wizened old ‘Metro-Man’, seething with national fervour, hopes to build rails to a better future, and run the State like he did the Metro Rail System in Delhi and other Cities. In West Bengal a ‘forever-scowling’ white Tigress slipped and fell hurting herself, breaking bones, and blamed the lotus-eating-Lions for attacking her. Now she gets to be pushed around the campaign trail. In Assam it’s free dole time too, with scooters for girls students and agricultural tools for farmers. We can expect something similar in Puducherry, with about the same parties playing the same political game yonder too.

India’s State Elections offer one of the best entertainment anybody can get anywhere in the world. Try looking at it!

On the COVID-19 Trail

Tracking the great Vaccination drive, more than 413 million shots have been given across 132 countries at a rate of about 9.94 million doses per day.

Israel has showed that vaccinations have a nation-wide effect. By February more than 84% of people of age 70 and above had received two doses and severe COVID-19 cases have declined rapidly. And life is returning to near normalcy. The United Kingdom experienced similar results.

India has administered near about about 40 million vaccine doses till date, and needs to change gears and drive even faster. India, being the Vaccine Factory of the World is in the forefront of delivering Vaccines to other nations as well, earning enormous goodwill in the process. A case is being made for opening the vaccination to anybody who wants it. The Government is yet to decide. Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases are alarming, with a high of over 40,000 cases yesterday, generating fears for a second wave of infections.

Music’s Biggest Night: The Grammys 2021

This year, the 63rd Grammys Awards were held on a different kind of stage and tuned to a different kind of music, as well, heavily influenced by the pandemic.

There was no audience, and performers were separated into five stages, arranged in a circle inside the Los Angeles Convention Centre to maintain social distancing. In another break with tradition, the awards were handed out by bartenders, security guards and cleaners from concert venues that have been forced to close due to Covid-19. Comedian Trevor Noah hosted the ceremony for the first time.

Taylor Swift’s surprise lockdown Album, Folklore, which was a front-runner in the run-up to the Grammys, fearlessly walked away with the Album of the Year prize making her the first woman to win the Best Album Award, three times. She swiftly joins ‘three other folks’ who had done it before – Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

The Grammy Awards Night may well be called the ‘Musilacious Beyonce Night’ as she aced the Awards breaking the record for the most Grammys won by a woman and any singer, male or female, with 28 awards-also tying the record with the great Quincy Jones, as the living person with the most Grammys.

Enter Blue Ivy Carter, 9 years old, the daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z who became the second youngest artist to win a Grammy Award, her first, for Best Music Video for ‘Brown Skin Girl’. The record for the youngest is held by Leah Peasall, who won in 2001 at the age of 8 years.

Beyonce and fellow Houston native, Best New Artist, Megan Thee Stallion, also made history as the first pair of women to ever win best rap performance with the remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’. The pair then went on to win best rap song for the same tune. But it was Beyonce’s win for best R&B performance for ‘Black Parade’ that put her over the top.

Find the other winners from the wildcards below.

‘I can’t breathe’ without saying that the Song of the Year was won by Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. And ‘Future Nostalgia’, Dua Lipa, stayed high on Pop Vocal Album of the year. It ‘Rain-ed on Me’ that the Best Pop Duo was Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. I decided it was ‘Everything I wanted’ of Bille Eilish for Record of the Year, but not before shooting ‘No Time To Die’ as the best song for visual media. Watch it in the yet to be released James Bond movie.

I just gulped a solo Harry Styles, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ drink to rock to ‘The New Abnormal’ of The Strokes before going traditional pop vocal with James Taylor’s, ‘American Standard’. ‘Anything for For You’ sang Ledisi in a traditional R&B best performance.

Oops, I’m still out of breath, and hope to find it soon!

The Oscar Nominations

Actor and Producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas along with her husband, Nick Jonas, announced the nominations-which had many surprises-for this year’s Academy Awards.

The movie ‘Mank’, directed by David Fincher, starring Academy Award winner Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, bagged 10 nominations under different categories. The second highest number of nominations was bagged by, The Trial Of The Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father, with six nominations each.

Mank is an American biographical film about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz who wrote the screenplay for one for the finest movies of our time, Citizen Kane. Recall, Gary Oldman is the honest Police Officer in the Batman movie, Dark Knight, and has previously won Best Actor Oscar for being Winston Churchill in the 2018 movie, Darkest Hour. Amanda Seyfried is nominated for Best Supporting Actress and this is her first Oscar nomination-without doubt, she is thrilled!

The Indian movies I talked about last week did to make it to the final nominations. But a Priyanka Chopra starrer (she is also one for the Producers), ‘The White Tiger’ held on to its stripes with a nomination for Writing-Best Adapted Screenplay, written for the screen by Ramin Bahrani who has also directed the film. Bahrani is an Iranian-American director and screenwriter.

The White Tiger, is based on author Arvind Adiga’s novel-a New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Man Booker prize-of the same name, and is the story of a self-made man growing from a tea-shop worker in a village to a successful entrepreneur in a big city (call it Bengaluru).

Look out for the Oscar Awards Ceremony happening at the end of March 2021.

More scenes set to great tunes coming up in the weeks ahead.


About: The story of the world this week-fascinating, with many firsts.


Smoke in my Eyes

Some news refuses to vacate the front page headlines-hogs it-and the Myanmar saga is one. This week 38 people protesting the military coup were killed and the retaliation against the pro-democracy demonstrators is becoming more brutal and deadly, with every new day of the strife. More than 50 people have died, and many wounded, since the coup began.

Where does Myanmar go from here? There was another thought channel-and I think it made sense-which believes that the ‘Aung San Suu Kyi Moment’ has passed, and Myanmar needs the next crop of leaders to step-in and make radical changes, especially in the Constitution. But then, clearing the military minefield would be the biggest challenge.

The World has been ‘shot and wounded’ by the incidents in Myanmar and should apply more pressure on the Military Junta to release leaders, hand over power to the people-elected Government-like it or not-and step behind. And watch from the shadows of their barracks.

The Pope in Iraq and the Rivers of Babylon.

Iraq is a war-torn country and healing is required in every dimension. It is also a land steeped in ancient biblical history. With this in mind perhaps Pope Francis decided to make a first-ever papal visit to Iraq, this week, and the first overseas visit by the Pope, since the pandemic caged all of us.

His Holiness was invited by President Barham Salih in 2019 and when it actually happened was received at the Baghdad Airport by Prime Minister Kadhimi.

On landing in Iraq, the 84 years old Pontiff said he comes as a pilgrim of peace and called for an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance.

Babylon, in Iraq, is the birthplace of Abraham, patriarch of the Jews, Christians and Muslims: it has been the dream of every Pope to make a visit. Pope Francis should be realising this dream.

Remember the Music Group, Boney M’s famous song, ‘Rivers of Babylon’, which lyrics are adapted from the Hebrew Bible and has a history stretching back to thousands of years. It’s about a time when Jerusalem has been conquered, the Temple destroyed and Israelites exiled in Babylon. They weep and mourn their fate sitting on the banks of the River Tigris and Euphrates remembering Zion- Jerusalem. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? The Pope will surely find answers.

The visit will also be the first meeting in history between the head of the Catholic Church and the head of the Shia Islamic Establishment-the Hawza-now led by the 90 years old Grand Ayatollah Ali-al Sistani, one of the most influential religious authorities in the Muslim World. They met in the holy city of Najaf and probably exchanged ‘religious views’.

Great minds are at work: hope peace and progress of humanity occupies the largest space.

Roaming on Mars

America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance Rover which successfully touched down on Mars, on 18th February, at the Jezero Crater took its first drive this week, traveling about 21 feet and doing a little spin across the Crater. NASA says that it all went ‘incredibly well’. Once the mission begins exploring Mars, in a more ‘whole-hearted manner’, it will go on drives averaging about 656 feet or more.

Meanwhile, Perseverance has been soaking itself in the Martian weather hoping to get a Martian tan: it deployed wind sensors to set up its own weather station, flexed its robotic arm-carrying a muscle of instruments-and even received a software update. And has sent about 7,000 images back to Earth.

Wow, the Rover seems to be enjoying the holidays! I’m still waiting for the Ingenuity helicopter to be dropped so that it can start preparing for its own test flights. Lots to look up to!

Chicks of the Old

A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom, regarded as the oldest know wild bird in history, aged at least 70, has hatched another chick in the Midway Wildlife Refuge-home for the largest colony of Albatrosses in the World-in the North Pacific Ocean. Though the chick was hatched in February it was only this week that it was reported.

Albatrosses mate for life, rarely cheating on their partners, during a normal life span of about 40 years. Wisdom having lived up to 70 must have outlived mates, and picked up new partners, probably through ‘dance parties’, which is an elaborate pair-selection ritual in the Albatross clan. Her present long-term, steady companion, since 2010 is a guy called Akeakamai-the father of the new chick-with whom Wisdom shares incubation duties and chick feeding duties, while she forages for food-a part of the Albatross culture.

Typically, Albatrosses hatch eggs every few years and Wisdom must have brought about 35 chicks into the World.

Laysan Albatrosses are large sea-birds with wingspans of about 2 metres. They are spectacular gliders, able to stay aloft in windy weather for hours without ever flapping their extremely long narrow wings. They drink seawater and feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans. Like most seabirds Albatrosses breed on land where they appear clumsy compared to their majestic, soaring flights in the air.

In the Bird World, only parrots, especially cockatoos, are known to live beyond 70 years and into the hundreds. Most animals are productive right up to old age, and this Albatross is indeed a magnificent old bird.


The fourth test match between India and England in underway at the ‘freshly named’ Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad, India, and England is finding the going awfully tough. Call it a name swing.

Vaccination Tracking, COVID-19.

More than 291 million doses have been administered across 111 countries at about 7.23 million doses per day.

Israel is continuing to lead the vaccination marathon with 95 doses given per 100 people; about 54.2% of the population has received at least one shot, and 40.4% are fully vaccinated. The United States (US) has given 26 doses per 100 people, while the United Kingdom has done 34 doses per 100.

India has given about 1.80 crore vaccine doses till date, at 1.4 doses per 100, with only 0.2% fully vaccinated. India needs to scale-up, quickly.

With the rollout of the second phase of the vaccination drive, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his first dose of a made-in-India COVID-19 Vaccine, Covaxin, at the, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, early this Monday and appealed to Indians to get themselves inoculated. Setting an example is the finest point in leadership and this should give the much-needed momentum to Vaccinating India.

Please Yourself: The Oscars

I’ve always been fascinated by the Oscars, the Red Carpet dresses-often leaving so much to the wildest possible imagination with haunting colour, sparkle, ‘transparency’, revealing hidden treasures, and unbelievable curves-a reflection of the fantasy of movie making. And the fantastic stories, song, music, and sheer brilliance of make-believe. Along with watching movies nothing compares to sitting back and watching the best movies of the year gone by and living the creative world of man’s mind.

This year, in the list of 366 movies, released by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences eligible for consideration at the 93rd Oscars, in various categories, three Indian Films have earned a place. One is, ‘Mmmmm’ (Sound of Pain), a film in the Kurumba language spoken by the tribal community in Attapadi, Kerala’s Palakkad District, South India. The film tells the story of a person from the Kurumba Tribe, who ekes out a living by collecting honey, and trials and tribulations in making his life ‘honey sweet’.

The second is, Tamil movie ‘Soorarai Pottru’ (hail the brave) which is a fictionalised true-story based on the start of India’s first low-cost airline-the struggle to lift and fly the common man. The theme being, everybody can afford to fly!

The third is ‘Bittu’ shortlisted in the Live Action Short Film category, which is set in rural India and revolves around the close friendship between two little girls, eclipsed by an accident of food poisoning at School.

Indian movies have not it made to holding the golden statues at the prestigious Oscars-though many Indian Artists and Actors have-and the only films that came close to being nominated are, Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988), and Lagaan(2001). India should get its act together. And it has fabulous stories to tell!

The voting will start on 5th March, and the official nominations will be announced on 15th March.

More golden stories, with ‘lots of span’, coming up next week.